Last night the actress, icon and frontwoman was in London to talk about her life and career – here are the highlights
Last night Courtney Love was in London to talk about her untraditional upbringing; her upcoming biography Girl With The Most Cake (which, she says, will be released alongside a new record); her thoughts on feminism; to remember why she broke up Hole; and revealed that her proudest achievement in life is her daughter Frances Bean, who was sitting equally as proud in the audience. Hosted by St Martins Lane, Love was in conversation with GQ’s Dylan Jones as part of the Liberatum Women In Creativity Series – which has previously hosted events around the world where women like Kristen Stewart, Susan Sarandon and Tilda Swinton speak about their lives and careers. Below are some of our favourite quotes.
ON HER UPBRINGING
“I think my upbringing is so weird and put me in a position where I was sort of almost born to do what I do, especially the rock part, and acting, and to perform. It was a confluence of events that created my career.”
ON BEING NOTICED BY ANDY WARHOL AND EARLY FAME
“I wanted Andy Warhol to notice me and he did… and when he noticed me my life got significantly better, to some extent. I wrote him some fan letters, I kind of stalked him a little bit (at 12-years-old)... quite precocious.
I always said I’d never go to New York until someone pays me – because I’ve seen people come back from New York like desiccated, broken… New York is a tough place if you’re coming out of Port Authority or from Oregon, and they were paying me 356 dollars a day to be on the set, so that was really wonderful. Then I did Straight To Hell which went straight to video (but) then Andy Warhol noticed me, from those two films. Then I got to be in Interview magazine and I got this little measure of celebrity, but with no money (laughs) that sucks… (but) it feels great if you’ve been wanting it. A lot of people like to say, ‘oh I didn’t ask for this, it just happened. I’m the luckiest guy in the world…’ I always wanted it.”
ON SINGING AND ACTING
“I had more confidence in my acting abilities than in my singing abilities, it’s just the rock and roll came easier and faster and it was more timely and I fell in love with it.”
ON HER BEGINNINGS IN THE GRUNGE SCENE AND HOLE
“I had maybe four or five pretend bands; Sugar Baby Doll and Sugar Babylon and Pagan Babies, Swamp Pussy. Those pretend bands never manifested but then I got in a real band called Faith No More that was not a democracy and it wasn’t a dictatorship (laughs). I don’t know, I think a band should be a benevolent dictatorship to some extent, but I wasn’t the dictator... it didn’t work out for me that band. But it was a real band and I was starting to find my mojo if you will….
Hole came about as a reaction to getting kicked out of a Minneapolis band called Babes in Toyland and not being cool enough for an all-girl LA band called The Pandora's – actually just being a crap bass player.
I would say I’m really proud of Hole. I would say Hole was a really good band, it might still be because I can’t remember why I broke it up and we all still get along then why not stick it back together… it’s more lucrative to stick it back together. If we put something new out that’s relevant, but if it’s not new and relevant it doesn’t really interest me. I honour the past but if it’s not new and relevant how are you gonna do that, at 51?”
ON HER UPCOMING BIOGRAPHY
“I’ve dragged it out for six years. I didn’t wanna do it. I took a piece of the advance six years ago and then I was like ‘bad girl’, and Harpers is not mad at me but it’s time to turn it in so it’s gotta be done by Christmas this year. We’ll have three chapters turned in in about three weeks, childhood chapters but it’s about getting it all right.
So she (the interviewer) asked me the other day, ‘why did you break up Hole?’ And I can’t remember, I really can’t (laughs). So I had Eric from Hole to talk to her because he’ll remember. We were doing really good and we were getting Grammy nominated, doing studio stadiums, and why did I break it? I don’t know why! It really wasn’t drugs? (Dylan Jones: so you’re going to find out why you broke up Hole?) yeah, I’ll find out.
(The book) will be my entire life but with a cutoff… like I’m very sensitive about my love life and my personal life, so I don’t want much of that in it. I mean, the salacious stuff I don’t want in there because I’ve definitely had phases, I’m done with that, so I don’t really want that stuff in there. I have a certain anger that’s reserved for particular lawyers and accountants which I don’t think anyone cares, no one is going to care about that!
I don’t want to a do a poor little rich girl. People cannot relate to certain things and I want to make a really cool book, but that is also transparent and honest. People can relate to ambition, people can relate to stalking Andy Warhol and Lee Daniels, people can relate to certain things but then there are other things that people just can’t relate to. So, we will see. I’m writing it all down, you got me at a really tender moment, I just saw the outline literally yesterday… and my daughter is very private so her life after a certain age is off-limits and stuff like that.”
“I think I get judged by a double standard a lot, but that’s just the way it is” – Courtney Love
ON BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A WOMAN IN MUSIC
“I always took myself really seriously... but sometimes I’d be at a venue and the guy would call me ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ when we were doing drums and stuff. I’d carry the drums in myself so people wouldn’t say I was a bitch. I went very briefly to an engineering school, so I knew the difference between white noise and pink noise and what a view meter was, and a logs player and things like that. I didn’t need to know but it came in handy when I was sitting with Steve Albini like ‘really? Is that a good logs player?’ I barely know what it is, but I learned ‘Smoke On The Water’ so I could go to Guitar Center and play that and not have guys look at me. It was different time – I think girls get taken a lot more seriously now.
There’s maybe 30 (female stars) if you count pop stars. Think about that, on the planet. Rockstars, I don’t know, I’ve never really sat down and counted female rock stars. There’s a few, there’s 10… 15… but throw a TV out on the balcony, the same stuff that Keith Richards did, the same stuff Jim Morrison did, the same things that Bono did – that we all forgot about – yeah, I think I get judged by a double standard a lot, but that’s just the way it is.
I talked to Dave Grohl about this, this month, that he doesn’t have to change his sound, and I kinda do. After hearing the latest PJ Harvey record I’m like ‘god, this woman never stops evolving, she’s so amazing and fantastical’, but at the same time I want to sound commercial, but not too commercial because no one is going to buy that from me and I can’t deliver that. So, I think with women, unless you are autonomous, unless you can play that piano, play that guitar, unless you really learn to do it yourself, (then) you’re interdependent and if you’re going to be interdependent, do it with people you trust and who can last the long haul with you.”
ON BEING A FASHION ICON
When it was happening I didn’t know it was happening… from David Bowie, I knew you had to have a look and a hair style, and I knew that from The Stones as well, so I kind of invented one, but I didn’t really know I was. I wasn’t that contrived… I was contrived, trust me… but I wasn’t that contrived that when it was going on I was like, ‘oh wow, I’m starting a trend, this is weird’, it felt surreal that the trend has endured and grown and that I started more than one. It’s like now, listen, when they first said in the 90s, ‘you are a brand’, I would have slapped them. Or used the word ‘exploit’ in a sentence, literally, ‘let’s exploit that da da da’, it would have offended me. I understand this is the market, this is the world, and there’s nothing wrong if you’re inventive... I love fashion, I love designing… if you’re gonna, then sell it, it’s OK.
I really liked the way Victoria Beckham did her thing, but my fashion agent said ‘do you want to give three years of your life and commit yourself the way she did?’ And it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just, I don’t. I mean, she did an excellent job and her price point is amazing and I really admire her and collect her clothes, but I would rather pursue acting and music. So I’m gonna do the clothes but they’re gonna be as Bond Street (laughs).”
ON THE DEATH OF ROCK AND ROLL
“(Rock and roll) is pretty much close to dead, unless there’s some great savior art direction unless there’s a new Oasis or Nirvana and people buy into that and it gets as big as Kanye is. It’s gotta be innovative, it’s gotta touch that many lives and kids, millennials, have all been raised, with very few exceptions, on rap and so I don’t know if they’d recognised it even if they heard it. When we were growing up they’d say ‘oh, Dylan couldn’t get signed today’, 20 years ago people were saying that, so I don’t know, I don’t know if it could get recognised today. Do you think it could get recognised? I don’t know… A lot of millennials don’t know who Patti Smith is, it’s crazy! It’s weird.”
ON MONTAGE OF HECK
“It was me and my daughter’s (baby). I found the director but I think to make it a credible documentary I needed to not be a producer on it… and my daughter did and she did a great job. That documentary is really great and says a lot of the things that I think Kurt would have wanted to be said. He’s not overt about certain things – like, some of the scores I have to settle are within my book – he doesn’t get into some bad things that happened, but he does get into a few. It’s more Kurt’s internal world, it’s not the Kurt and Courtney story, per say.”
“I am a feminist and I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist. What I don’t like about feminism and the far left in general is the in-fighting, the way that the far left in-fights too much to get anything done and I feel like in feminism it’s like, ‘well, she’s not really feminist enough’ and there can be this kind of less-than thing in feminism. And also I think there’s a biological paradigm between men and women where men are just men and women are just women, and there is something to be said about that. But at the same time, I think equality amongst the sexes is critical.”
ON CALMING DOWN
“Until I got into the Miloš Forman movies I wasn’t very controlled. I didn’t have publicists that would help me and guide me and help me to understand that I was making more trouble for myself than I needed to make by being too overt and it’s just good manners, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it. Discretion. I didn’t have any boundaries with discretion pre-1994 and then I learned (from) this book Interior Life; not name dropping and not salacious at all, so it’s so important to have found that.
I had to learn because Hole was very successful and because I had a very high profile marriage and got attacked for that, vilified for that... my kid, my husband. We were in a bubble and it was very scary. But with the Miloš thing, I had to learn a whole new Eliza Doolittle way and that was hard. And then I slipped into some old bad habits sometimes…
For me, a good publicist is someone who helps me to not get myself into trouble. I have a lot of friends in the media who I trust really intensely but it’s really important to not hurt people and I’ve mellowed into that, in my old age.
I’m still really ambitious (laughs). I’ve mellowed out, I’m tougher, I think I’m more discreet, I’m well mannered… I got mad today at somebody, I’m not gonna say but it was a little lack of respect that pissed me off and I was like ‘fuck off with it’, I didn’t throw anything, I didn’t have a tantrum, I just kind of quietly muttered, ‘fuck off with it’ and that was the end of it… and then I felt guilty...”
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